Florida Inheritance Law

Hialeah, Florida 33002
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What Florida Residents Need to Know About Inheritance Law

Welcome to the fastest and easiest way to find out about Inheritance Law in Florida.

Many "snowbirds" who reside in northern states own property in Florida whether or not it is their main residence. If you inherit property from a snowbird, you may need to learn about Florida inheritance law whether you live there or not.

Here you can learn how to use Florida's summary probate procedures for estates worth less than $75,000, and how so-called Ladybird Deeds are commonly used in Florida (as they are in Michigan and Texas) as an inexpensive way to pass real estate at death while avoiding probate, without the need of a living trust.. 

What Brings You Here?

Are you...

... an inheritor wondering how to get access to the deceased's property?
... named as an executor or trustee in a loved one’s will or living trust and you need to know how the probate process works, or
... planning ahead now, and want to learn how to avoid probate to make it easy for your loved ones to get your property after you die.

This site will provide you with tips and tools and checklists that you can use in Florida to transfer property at death as quickly and affordablbly as possible. 

Six Things to Keep In Mind About Florida Inheritance Law

Here are 6 things to keep in mind about probate and transferring property at death:

1. Much of your property never goes through probate or your will

You may not realize that, if your bank accounts or other accounts have a named beneficiary on file with the financial institution, that account will never pass through your will and will bypass the probate process. 

Many estates can avoid probate altogether, because assets will go to named beneficiaries because they are held as pay-on-death or  joint tenancy accounts, or in retirement accounts with a named beneficiary or life insurance, or the assets were held in a living trust, and whatever is left is small enough to fall under a state's small estates limit.

Property That Avoids Probate in Florida

If you are a beneficiary or a joint owner "with right of survivorship" (WROS), you can typically claim the asset by dealing with the financial institution directly, and provide them with a death certificate and proof of your identity as a beneficiary.

2. Probate is governed by state law and is handled by the county court where the deceased person resided or owned property

If you haven't done so already, make sure you enter the zip code or at least select the state and county of residence for the person who died, to learn about the probate law and probate court procedure for that state and county.

PROBATE COURT

Florida Probate Court Finder: Get details about Your County probate court. 

(You are currently looking at information for Florida. Click here for information about Probate Court for Your County.)

If the Deceased Owned Property In More Than One State

If the deceased person owned property in more than one state, "ancillary probate" proceedings may be required in those other states, depending on how the property was owned. These extra hurdles can be avoided by some simple planning ahead.


3. Simplified Florida Probate Procedures May Be Available to Transfer Property Quickly

For property that did not have a beneficiary designation or was not in a living trust, there may be "simplified probate" procedures or "small estate affidavit" procedures in Florida for transferring certain kinds of property at death, which can avoid the cost and time of a full-blown court-supervised probate proceeding.

SHORTCUTS:

Small Estate Procedures in Florida: Many states allow simplified procedures for small estates and certain kinds of property which can be transferred by a simple affidavit procedure if the value of the estate falls under a certain limit.

Property Transfer Affidavits: Most states have quick procedures for transferring property valued less than a certain amount, if all the heirs agree.

In Florida, there's no Affidavit procedure available for small estates. There is a summary probate procedure available for estates that have no real estate and in which all property is exempt from creditor's claims, except the amounts needed to pay funeral and the last two months of illness expenses.

Fla. Stat. Ann 735.201

There's another summary probate procedure available for estates that don't exceed $75,000 or in which the decedent has been dead for mor than two years. (This excludes the value of all joint tenancy property and other assets that pass by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance and transfer on death accounts.)

Fla. Stat. Ann 735.201 and following.

 


Need Professional Help? Talk to a Probate Attorney

Want help handling your duties as an executor of a Florida estate? Connect with a Florida probate lawyer from the Nolo/Martindale network.

 

4. Even if there's no will, someone needs to start the probate process when someone dies

Regardless of the size of the estate, someone needs to start the probate process within a certain period after someone dies. If you were named the executor in the will, you are that person.

If there is no will, or no executor was named in the will, the court will appoint someone to be responsible for filing the necessary documents to complete the process of paying debts and taxes and funeral expenses from the estate and distributing property to beneficiaries.

If you are a beneficiary of a small estate, you may be able to claim your inheritance with a simple affidavit. (If there is no will,  beneficiaries are determined by the "intestate succession" laws in the state where the person is a resident.) 


Wills & Intestacy

  • Wills: What are they? Do I need one? What if someone dies without one?
    • Naming an executor.
    • Appointing guardians and property managers for minor children
    • Specifying how debts should be paid
  • No Will? Who Inherits if a Spouse or Parent Dies Without a Will in Florida

5. Death & Taxes: Most estates do not need to file an estate tax return, but there are other kinds of year-end taxes to be paid when someone dies

Unless an estate is worth more than $13,610,000, it will not need to file a Federal estate tax return.

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6. Creditors and taxes must be paid before you can inherit assets

  • The estate always must pay taxes before any other creditors can get paid. 
  • Debts that are secured by property, like mortages, are called secured debts, because if someone doesn't pay the loan, the lender can take the property. If you inherit a house, you also inherit the mortgage.
  • Unsecured debts, like credit cards, don't work that way -- as a beneficiary you are not responsible for that debt,
  • But the estate needs to pay all known creditors before distributing property to beneficiaries and heirs. Otherwise, a creditor can come calling to get paid back from estate assets, even after they've been distributed.
  • Most states have some sort of protection from creditors in the form of a “family allowance” and/or a homestead exemption

 



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